365 days – one year ago today!

The Flight of Fantasy Award

How time flies when you’re having fun?! ūüėÄ

Exactly one year ago today, on a rather chilly and snow-covered afternoon much like this, I decided to dip my toes in the shifting sea of blogging. Being not just an technophobe but also a certified techno-idiot, I severely doubted my skills in this area. SAM_2255

When it comes to computers I tend to push random buttons and hope for the best!

However, I am a quick learner and a tenacious little bugger so I keep trying and trying and by some mysterious force and the wonderful support of YOU, my lovely internet supporters, friends and family, this personal little blog has grown into something rather special.

So, what aims did I have when I started this blog?

594Probably much like any other I suppose. For me, this was always going to be a personal blog, not a commercial site, a buy buy buy me site, I find most marketing sites a complete turn off. No, this was an odyssey of self-expression, a way of making sense of an increasingly bizarre world, and a way of sharing poetry, short stories, travelogues, writing tips, a little philosophy and my experiences with others. Octavia's Bookshop signing 2012

As a writer, we all have very different paths and journeys to follow which take us in different directions. No author’s journey is ever the same, that is what makes it so special and so unique. Advice is wonderful and helpful, but of course as with life, one size doesn’t fit all. Take what you need and leave the rest. Decide what is important to you, what works and what doesn’t.

To thine own self be true.

Try not to be derailed or bullied into producing someone else’s vision. Your vision is your vision. Be proud of who and what you are, warts and all. Nobody is perfect. As a perfectionist myself, I know that to be true especially of myself, but strive and never stop striving!

Remember, nobody ever truly fails from having high expectations, from pushing themselves that little bit harder. You may not attain the dizzying summits you are aiming for, but at least having them in your sights will bring them damn close. But if your dreams are limited, your expectation low, then so will be the results of your endeavours.

To strive and never give up no matter the odds or obstacles, believe me, there will be A LOT of them and from unexpected quarters!!!!

Yeap, one thing I can promise is that the life of a writer is never easy. Much of the time you will feel utterly alone and like you are constantly swimming against the current. You’ve just got to grow fins and be a bit of a salmon, keep swimming upstream, over waterfalls and harsh terrain until you reach your¬†goal!

Life ain’t easy, but I guess nothing ever is. Just remember, no matter how difficult things get, you are NEVER alone, there are thousands of other little fish swimming upstream along side you. So when you can, stretch out and¬†lend them a fin and share your journey with them. A trouble shared is not only a trouble halved, but it reminds us of our collective humanity and the ties that bind us all.

Again, a little kindness goes a long way… ūüėÄ

In the shark infested waters of the book business, where even the great can be easily swallowed by the tides and sink without a trace, it’s good to be a strong swimmer and help your fellow minnows along. There’s safety in numbers, right? ūüėõ

To that fact, as well as thanking the 9,000 or so lovely visitors who have graciously visited this little blog over the last year and left their indelible presence behind (and to whom I owe so much), I must thank those wonderful talented fellow fantasy minnows that I first met back in November 2010. I speak of course, of The Alliance of Worldbuilders, brainchild of the Dark Lord himself, creator Tristan Mander (TRM)!!!

When I joined the Harpercollins writing site, Authonomy back in 2010, I had no idea what a profoundly wonderful experience I chanced upon. A collective group of truly amazing writers, each imbued with a generosity of spirit, a wicked sense of humour and a talent and passion for fantasy writing. These inspiring individuals have since gone on to not only take over Authonomy as by far the largest group and thread on the site, but have produced a staggering range of excellent fiction!

I am immensely proud to call myself a member of The Alliance of Worldbuilders¬†(AWB), as Tollam¬†(Thane of Fyrrens), and though I don’t visit my talented AWBer’s as often as I’d like, they are never far from my thoughts.¬†Their¬†friendship and support have been simply amazing! Thank you so much guys!

Please check out The Alliance of Worldbuilders website: http://theallianceofworldbuilders.weebly.com/

and Authonomy where the magic all began: www.authonomy.com and the AWB thread itself: http://www.authonomy.com/forums/threads/99758/the-alliance-of-worldbuilders-part-iii/

So, in reverence¬†to these amazing individuals, I (techno-idiot extraordinaire) have decided to really commemorate this special one year blog anniversary, by creating my very own blog award – The Flight of Fantasy Award. ūüėÄ

The Flight of Fantasy Award

This award is specifically intended for fantasy writers only Рcreators and destroyers of worlds, fantasy authors who inspire us, who thrill us with their dark imaginings, ignite our dreams and fuel our imaginations. They can be writers of urban fantasy, high/classic/epic fantasy, comic fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy horror, paranormal fantasy (ghosts are fine but no vampire stuff please) and sci-fi fantasy.

If you are lucky enough to be nominated for this award, then CONGRATULATIONS you officially ROCK!!!

The Rules of the Award are as follows:

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  3. State¬†11 things about yourself (it’s a Spinal Tap thing!), including why you love fantasy and your first or favourite¬†fantasy book.
  4. Nominate¬†7 bloggers for this award and link to them. (If you want to link back to me as well, that would be lovely but isn’t required!)
  5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

*****

Now, as the creator of this prestigious award, I’m going to get the ball rolling by nominating the first fantasy bloggers…and yes, I’m being naughty and am nominating more than 7! ūüėÄ xx

Please check out these extraordinary blogs and writers (in no order)!:

A.F.E. Smith  http://www.afesmith.com/

Lindsey J Parsons http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com

Will Macmillan Jones http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

Kay Kauffman http://suddenlytheyalldied.com/

Katrina Jack http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/

Lisa Wiedmeier http://lisawiedmeier.blogspot.co.uk/

Ryan Holmes (Griffin’s Quill) http://griffinsquill.com/

Tricia Drammeh http://theclaimingwords.com/

Ashen Venema http://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/

Andrea Baker http://www.andreabakerauthor.com/

Gretchen Steen http://thedragonladyofraevencliffcastle.weebly.com/

Jeremy Rodden http://www.toonopolis.com/

Hazel Butler http://aadenianink.com/

Tamara Hickman http://tamarahickman.wordpress.com/

Sam Dogra http://indigolightning.blogspot.co.uk/

Emily Rebecca McKeon http://www.theabsenteeblogger.blogspot.com

AMAZING writers and bloggers one and all, check em’ out guys! ūüėÄ xx

The Flight of Fantasy Award

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Passing 4,000!!!

Mind your own business!!!!A few months ago, I overcame my inherent nervousness and general suspicion of anything IT, to start my own blog. My initial intentions were to keep it small and informal, a running dialogue concerning life, writing and everything in between. Quite quickly and despite my best IT efforts, it became apparent that my ‘Daily Hello’ was becoming more of a weekly howdy, which in turn became increasingly more sporadic as life and the pressures of work impinged on my time.

However, never did I genuinely entertain the thought that my humble sojourn into the blogging world, more of a trip stumble splat really, would result in my little blog passing 4,000 hits in such a short time.

As those who know me will attest, I’m rarely lost for words…however on this occasion I am truly speechless!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your support has been truly amazing.

ūüėÄ xx

New Zealand Odyssey Part VI – Geysers and the Beating Heart of the Earth.

After weeks in the wondrous far north amongst the giant sand hills,¬†magical kauri trees¬†and golden¬†beaches of the beautiful Bay of Islands, I¬†left the car and took the bus, heading south to the pulsating heart of New Zealand’s North Island.

The landscape slowly changed from tropical to temperate, as I passed lush rolling pastureland, populated of course by lots of sheep! After a small stop near Hamilton to view the amazing glowworm caves, eerie and unsettling in equal measure, I continued on toward Rotorua.

Sitting on an intense geothermal ‘hotspot’, Rotorua is a sleepy kind of a¬†town with a relaxed atmosphere,¬†that¬†lies on top of a restless giant.¬†For someone who is normally so in tune with nature, I was utterly amazed and unprepared for what I saw – a living, breathing, bubbling planet, full of life¬†only a few inches¬†beneath¬†my feet!

I disembarked from the bus and explored the town on foot before hiring another car for exploring. The¬†smell of sulphur hung thickly¬†in the air, mixing with the exotic flowers that fill Rotorua’s many parks and its enormous pineapple shaped palm trees! I checked into the aptly named Tiki Lodge motel, and started my adventures.

First, a visit to the Whakarewarewa thermal village, a wonderful maori centre surrounded by hot pools, boiling mud lakes, lunar landscapes and shooting geysers.

Watching the maori craftsmen carving was inspirational but again it was the spectacle of nature that left me speechless. Travelling south to the Waiotapu¬†and Waimangu¬†valleys, I was faced by yet more steaming lakes, strange silicate formations, smoking vents and fumaroles¬†and the magnificent sight of Waiotapu’s¬†world famous,¬†‘Champagne Pool’, and Waimangu’s¬†amazing ‘Inferno Crater Lake’, apparently the largest geyser-like feature in the world!¬†I stood¬†at the edge of¬†the most¬†brilliant¬†ice blue¬†lake I’ve ever seen…but a lake made entirely of bubbling acid!

Waking¬†early on yet another gloriously sunny day, I strapped on my small day backpack and decided to go for some adrenaline thrills! Oh dear! Dangling from a chair lift some 100ft¬†or more off the ground, I¬†was hoisted up the side of¬†Mount Ngongotaha, giving the most¬†amazing views over¬†Rotorua¬†City,¬†Lake Rotorua and the surrounding area, including the distant volcanoes to the south.¬†Then, once I’d explored the summit, I found myself sitting on a piece of plastic which barely covered my bum, halfway between a sledge and a tray, and proceeded to throw myself down the¬† mountainside on¬†‘The Luge’! Whizzing down a twisting turning concrete luge track at startling speed is just about the most fun you can have…EVER! Suffice to say, I had to repeat the experience¬†quite a few¬†times! ūüėÄ

My next stop though was far more effort intensive, more contemplative and ultimately more rewarding.

Travelling south of Rotorua along the volcanic plateau I came to the dormant volcano, Mount Tarawera, which erupted in 1886 killing over 150 people and swallowing whole villages in its wake. Today, it was an uncharacteristically grey day. The mountain was shrouded in low hanging clouds which seemed to roll down to meet me as I nervously joined a climbing party heading for the summit. Lagging behind and gasping for breath, I used my camera as a good excuse to keep stopping for photos, but nevertheless, I pressed on.

Some 5 or 6 hours later, I eventually broke through the mists and reached the summit. Utterly exhausted but elated I took in the brooding atmosphere of the volcano and the breathtaking views over the Tongariro National Park to the south with its active volcanoes, Mount Ruapehu and the perfect cone of Mount Ngauruhoe in the distance.

With a mixture of excitement and a little trepidation, I followed the guide, from the summit down into the crater itself. Sliding down the crater sides, a mixture of scree and gravel, you could actually feel the heat of the volcano through your boots! I have never experienced anything so fundamentally powerful and primeval…a truly humbling experience.

After a few weeks around the wonderfully visceral Rotorua area, I continued my journey south into a whole new world and one which truly brought me to my knees…

New Zealand Odyssey Part V – Giant Sand Hills and the Mixing of Seas.

Taking my backpack and the rental car, I left my base in the Bay of Islands and headed far north to the very tip of New Zealand. With Radiohead’s¬†latest album (at the time), ‘OK Computer’, as my travelling soundtrack, I followed the meandering State Highway north, as it hugged the coastline. Spectacular views flowed past me as a dreamscape. Beauty round every bend of the road.

It was a perfect summer’s day. Under an azure sky I crossed Whangaroa Harbour and continued north to Doubtless Bay, stopping off to have¬†a picnic lunch¬†on the white sands¬†of Coopers Beach.

Dragging myself away, I took to the road again. The afternoon waned as I cruised past yet another breathtaking sight, the Houhora estuary. An inlet of very shallow water, crystal clear, with white sandbanks¬†breaking the surface here and there.¬†But nothing was to prepare me for what was to come…

Journeying ever northward, the highway, the only route north, eventually petered out at Cape Reinga, the most northerly tip of New Zealand.  I parked, just one of many tourists, many of them pouring from coaches and bus tours. But despite this, the place was still remarkably unspoilt and quiet. Leaving the car, I was inextricably drawn to the famous Cape Reinga lighthouse and its signpost, a testament to just how far away New Zealand is to every other country in the world!

Taking the coastal path, I walked along the edge of what had become my beloved Aotearoa (New Zealand) and watched in awe at the mixing of the seas –¬† a strange and beautiful phenomenon where the Tasman Sea suddenly meets the Pacific, just beyond Cape Reinga’s point.

I¬†stood mesmerised by the sheer power and purity of nature. As the sun sank in the most gorgeous of sunsets, I found a sheltered cove just above a tiny beach and camped out beneath the stars. Just magic. Nothing but the sweet beautiful blue disturbed my sleep…

If heaven existed…this was it.

I rose early, just as the first throng of tourists arrived. To my satisfaction, I was not the only single-minded solitary traveller who had had¬†an impromptu stay. Weary but intensely happy, these campers gave knowing smiles to each other as they filed out of the lighthouse ‘restrooms’.

I was reluctant to leave, but I knew there was one sight I could not leave without seeing for myself…the famous giant sand hills!

Studying my maps, I travelled back south a little way until I reached Te Paki, a small settlement of houses, then turning right I followed the Te Paki stream road, really no more than a rural track until I reached them.

I still cannot explain the startling sight of driving through green countryside and emerging from lush woodland to be faced with a desert landscape!

Towering sand dunes or hills surrounded by green…beautiful desolation!

I went exploring. Watching a small party of thrill seekers ‘sandsurf’ and body board was great fun, but it was solitude I sought. Suddenly I was alone walking along the ridges and shifting sands of¬†the Sahara, the Gobi, the Kalahari…

The starkness and simplicity of nature was humbling and again, I found myself letting go of demons and dreaming of distant forgotten lands and cities of sand…